Today, our focus is on Mike Wood, a CEO at Versa. With 30 years of experience in marketing, product, and engineering, Mike leads the Versa marketing organization and drives brand awareness, messaging, positioning, product marketing, and corporate communications.
So, we sat down with him to find out more about why he joined the software industry, what his role as CEO entails, and his advice to people seeking careers in software.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Silicon Valley, some people say Folk who are born and raised and stay there is a particular type called “local-locals”.
How did you get motivated to try software engineering?
I grew up in Silicon Valley, very early on when the valley was beginning to form, Fairchild, IBM, and others. A couple of things really, I loved to tinker with electronic things, take them apart, reassemble them and try and change them.
The second thing is, I went to a public high school with a unique electronics elective program. I enrolled in that for four years and it was doing that, which allowed me to do hardware design. We also had a Hero One Robot that we could program, TRS80 computer that we could program and write programs on, so that got me interested.
I had a commodore 64 computer at home and so I’d be writing programs and that and game on that if you can call that gaming these days.
How did you get your first software testing job?
I ended up going to San Jose State and took a computer electronics degree and ended up graduating and working for a government house, ARGO systems. I started as a technician helping to debug products, looking at code, seeing how it works, see how it functions.
What’s your day to day like as a CEO at Versa?
It’s incredibly interesting. I work a lot with our sales team to refine and refine and introduce our value proposition and our differentiation and our customer benefits as well as messaging and positioning, looking at what’s happening in the industry, how to fit into those trends, how we lead into those trends and ahead of those trends and even then seeing where those trends will be and seeing what way our product direction should go in an as a result of that.
The third part of that is interacting with the media and bloggers and quite honestly, they talk to so many people it’s great to hear what’s going on from their perspectives.
What advice would you give to someone just joining the software industry?
I started at Versa as a CMO. CISCO where I made most of the transitions in my career. I transitioned from engineering to product management to marketing.
I think Software engineering and computer science is very powerful. If you can start off and be the best you possibly can in software engineering and computer science, it gives you this phenomenal foundation, a springboard that allows you to go and you can do so many different things. It’s a powerful discipline.
You can go off and be an entrepreneur. You can start your own company and with that foundation, you can join a larger business, you can help to define new products, where the market is going, and know what needs to be developed or write your own product.
Knowing about software makes you able to run a company, be a CEO, move into marketing as a CMO as I’ve done. It gives you a level of knowledge and perspective. The reason is that it gives you knowledge and perspective you have because you’ve been deep into the technology and it gives you enormous credibility because when you speak about the market, products, or trends it gives you the pedigree to go down on the detail in all of those areas and it gives you a unique perspective and a way to make business decisions and decide how and where to go and what to do so it’s a very powerful business to go into.
Do you have a memorable story or anecdote you always find yourself coming back to?
I think that the one thing I run into the most is that there will always be problems. You will always encounter a problem, security threat, a bug, a barrier to something. What I’ve come to realise is that there is always a solution and staying calm and understanding the situation and determining what that solution is key. It may be something you do on your own with others but that’s one thing that has come up constantly.
In every discipline, I’ve been in I’ve experienced that, and having the confidence to realise is that is incredibly powerful.
Do you have any last words for people out there working on their projects?
I would say do and be the best possible professional person and individual you can be and the road will rise to meet you as you continue to execute in whatever you discipline you’re in.
I think in terms of solutions, from a broader business perspective, there are a lot of new technologies and capabilities that are really transforming the world of security and networking that take unique and new and different approaches to solving those challenges. So, the solution may not be something that is obvious or the next incremental step, it may be a completely different approach you need to take to find the best solution out there.